In E.M. Forster’s Maurice, set in the rigid Christian and bourgeoisie environment of early twentieth century England, the titular Maurice struggles with homosexuality and his English identity which warns of a stiff upper lip. Yet unable to recognize an alternative to heterosexuality and denying to himself his attraction to his schoolboy friend, Durham, Maurice continues to feel the pressure to embody heteronormative behaviour for most of his life. He, after all, was taught that heterosexuality and masculinity were the only ideals for the British public school boy, he “wants to be like other men, and laments that he is an “unspeakable.”
Maurice struggles with homosexuality and his English identity
One of the striking moments in the book had to be when Maurice tries, twice, to cure himself of his ‘affliction.’ Desperation, to resignation, to acceptance follows – as he realizes only self acceptance could ever reconcile him with his boyhood lover. Maurice was turned into a delicate and well shot film, with James Wilby and Hugh Grant as Maurice and Durham. The film does, however, treat the tale as a romantic love story – rather than Maurice’s struggle with himself and his environment.
A hundred years on and in peak Pride season, one must surely wonder how many Maurices there are in English boarding schools, perhaps in love with their best friend, perhaps unsure about what they love if anything at all. Forster’s novel is something that I may not relate to as much as his other work, A Passage to India (telling of white saviour tourists and their humorously delusional desire to see the real India), but it is possibly his most exquisitely written work. Perhaps what is so striking about Maurice is its capability to endure – it’s over a hundred years since the book was written, yet there could be any number of Maurices, as English boarding schools and their attitudes fail to change, and stick to bigotry under the guise of “tradition.”bookmark me